Sunday, September 5, 2010

Everett House, Home to Turkish Ambassador

Residence of the Turkish Ambassador to the U.S.
1606 23rd Street, N.W. at Sheridan Circle

The impressive Beaux-Arts neoclassical edifice that serves as the Turkish Ambassador’s residence was designed by Washington based society architect George Oakley Totten, Jr. (1866–1939). Completed in 1914, the 40,000 sq. ft. limestone mansion was commissioned by Edward Hamlin Everett (1851-1929), a wealthy industrialist from Cleveland, Ohio. Chief among his inventions was the crimped soft drink bottle cap; in addition to bottle glass industries, he was involved in Texas oil and Missouri brewing interests. His company, The American Bottle Company, later merged with Corning to become the Owens-Corning Fiberglass Company.

At the time this house was built, the Everetts also had homes in Ohio, Vermont* and a chateau in Switzerland**.

Edward Everett (right)

The site of the house previously served as a city dump, but the large lot took a huge turn for the better when construction of this fabulous home, situated between the buffalo bridge over Rock Creek Park and Sheridan Circle, commenced in 1910. With Renaissance-style architectural features prominent on the exterior, the interior features a black and white marble entrance hall, sweeping double staircase, gold plated door-knobs, teakwood floors, a musicians gallery, a rococo-designed Otis elevator, 150 windows, 200 doors, a conservatory with vaulted mosaic accented ceilings, a rooftop garden and a swimming pool in the basement. The sparkling ballroom is resplendent with red silk tapestry and wood paneled walls under a gold leaf carved coffered ceiling. During the 1920s, the house became famous for festive musical evenings featuring singers from New York’s Metropolitan Opera. The Everett’s guests were seated on gold painted art nouveau bent wood chairs, which had seemingly disappeared upon the death of Grace Everett (1879-1969), only to be rediscovered in the early 1980s in the mansion’s attic.

Architect George Oakley Totten, Jr. had previously worked in Istanbul, where he designed the first American chancery and a residence for Izzet Pasha (the Grand Vezir, Prime Minister of the Turkish Empire). His work there was so well received that he was offered the position of “Private Architect to the Sultan.” Totten blended three architectural periods in his design for this mansion: 16th-century Italian, 18th-century Romanesque and 19th-century Art Deco, with distinct features from decorative Ottoman styles.

At the time of his death in 1929, Everett lived in Washington with his second wife, opera singer Grace Burnap (thirty years his junior), and their two daughters, born when Edward was in his seventies. In 1932, his widow leased the house to the Turkish government, and it was used as both chancery and residence. In 1936, at the behest of Turkey’s first President, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the mansion was purchased from Grace by the Turkish government with all its contents for $400,000. In the 1990s the Chancery moved to Embassy Row on Massachusetts Avenue, and the building became the residence of the ambassador. The house was closed in 2004 for a three-year $20 million renovation, during which time the structure and all its contents were painstakingly restored.

Trivia: When Turkish Ambassador Münir Ertegün and his family moved to Washington D.C. in 1936, his two sons, Ahmet and Nasuhi, already had a record collection of 25,000 blues and jazz records. But it was their live Sunday music salons with the young Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington performing for integrated audiences that shocked Washington’s elite. Attending prep school during the day, Ahmet and his older brother frequented Washington’s musical haunts by night. When their father died in 1944, they both decided to stay in America and pursue music careers; Nasuhi chose Los Angeles and Ahmet, Washington. With partner Herb Abramson, Ahmet launched Atlantic Records on a $10,000 loan from his Turkish dentist, and the rest is history. They recorded some of the greatest musicians of the century; they began with Big Joe Turner, Ruth Brown and Ray Charles, then discovered Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding. Soon they branched out to Bobby Darin, Sonny and Cher, the Bee Gees, and Allman Brothers, and signed the Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa and Kid Rock. In October 2006, Ahmet fell backstage during a Rolling Stones New York concert and lapsed into a coma. He died on December 14, 2006, at age 83.
*The 27-room Everett summer home in Bennington, VT (shown above), on the National Register of Historic Places, now serves as the primary administrative and academic building of Southern Vermont College. Everett hired famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead (NYC's Central Park) to design the grounds; a distinctive feature of the estate is an Olmstead-designed 13-tier cascading stone fountain at the rear of the mansion.

Everett owned the multi-spired neo-Gothic Château de l'Aile (shown below) in Vevey, Switzerland, overlooking the shores of Lake Geneva.

1 comment:

  1. HI Terry, Just to point out that Everett never owned a chateau in Switzerland. As documented in my book (see quote and link below), he only visited Switzerland four times in his life, and rented rooms in the Chateau de l'Aile when he was there. Continuous ownership of the Chateau by the Couvreu family until the mid-20th century is well documented in Switzerland. Here's what I had to say about this i my book:

    "Between 1909 and 1928, the Everetts made four visits to the village of Vevey, in Switzerland, each of about one year in duration. Their visitor registration cards show that on each of these stays the Everetts lived in the Château de l’Aile, at that time owned by Eugène Couvreu. Eugène was one of a long line of heirs who had owned the Château since the early 18th century. Even though Eugène lived elsewhere in Vevey, he reserved the Château’s piano nobile for his own use, and frequently entertained writers and artists in its grand ballroom. Other parts of the mansion were rented out. The Everetts occupied some combination of rooms on the third and/or fourth floor of the Château, sharing kitchen and utility areas with the owner and other renters."
    A complete, free PDF of the book on the Edward Everett house is available for download at this link:

    Best regards,
    Skip Moskey